We were supposed to be home. The original plan was to get an early start, spend a portion of the day at Liberty Science Center in Jersey City, N.J., head into Manhattan for an early dinner at Pulino then home. The plan was initially derailed by an extended shopping trip to Fairway (we went for bagels and "a few things") and even more so by an estate sale across the street in Ridgewood, where my wife bought 4 beautiful concrete planters for $20 each.
Although we were getting a late start, we still planned on going to the Science Center and Pulino until I got a call from my sister, Elizabeth, to see if we were back from New Orleans yet. She herself had just returned from Cabo on Thursday. I didn't think she was returning until Saturday. She was in the process of making stuffed artichokes and "meat in the gravy" and since we were still in NJ invited us over. As much as I wanted to try Pulino, how could we refuse? I was amazed that she undertook that degree of cooking without any assurance of company. We spent a couple of hours at the Science Center before heading upriver to her apartment in Fort Lee.
Not wanting to arrive empty handed, we went searching for a pastry shop along the way and hit paydirt at Giorgio's on Washington Street in Hoboken, where I picked up some cannoli and sfogliatelle-like "lobster tails" that were stuffed with cream.
We finally made it to my sister's. Knowing that we were coming, she went out to supplement her meal with some fresh mozzarella from A&S in Wyckoff (smooth, creamy and delicious), Italian bread with sesame seeds, olives and her own fried red peppers. Paired with a little pinot grigio, this alone could have made a satisfying supper, but then came her stuffed artichokes. Elizabeth makes them similar to the way my mother did, but with her own little tweaks. Stuffed with bread crumbs, herbs, Parmesan and chunks of provolone, they were magnificent. So was her "gravy over maccheroni. She made meatballs and braciole and also included sweet Italian sausage, all marvelous and my definition of comfort food, especially with a little ricotta added to the pasta. The pasta was served with a home-made red wine given to her by a friend. It was surprisingly good.
The pastries also turned out to be very good and just the right ending component for this wonderfully spontaneous meal. Thanks, Sis!